Goulburn Valley Fly Fishing Centre
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Goulburn Valley Fly Fishing Centre

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The Angler's Curse

The Goulburn River is well known for good mayfly hatches on evening and rightly so. Huge hatches of a variety of mayfly species occur on dark and fly fishers in the know are suitably geared for this emergence. Also common is a daytime hatch during late springtime and autumn Caenis are tiny hence I did not take this photo Photo Courtesy of Pat O'Reilly in his book Matching the Hatch, Swan-Hill Press or go to www.fishing-in-wales.comthat is also fished by a great many anglers. There is however another appearance of mayflies that goes unnoticed by the majority flyfishers and that is, hatch of the early morning caenids.

Caenids are a family of mayflies that are common the world over. They are peculiarly shaped when compared to many of their cousins with a short, stumpy body and an oversized wing. They are also tiny with hook sizes in the #22-26 needed to accurately imitate these bugs. Hatching out in huge numbers at first light they can bring the trout to the surface for that first few hours of the day. Because they emerge in huge numbers and because they are so tiny, they are universally known as 'the angler's curse'.First light on the goulburn

Flow Rates

The Goulburn has two distinct aspects of this hatch. This can easily be broken down as a/ High Water (above 4000 megs) and b/ Low Water (4000 Megs or below). The river takes on very different characteristics at these two levels and this will dictate where you go looking for them.

At higher flow rates the fishing is limited to backwaters and reverse eddies where sufficient Caenids usually hatch in huge numbersnumbers will accumulate to get the fish to rise. While you won't find many fish the chances for success are good as those that have occupied the prime backwater lies will be feeding well and easily stalked as they are not likely to move much.

The second category is perhaps the most enjoyable and this refers to the lower flow rates. When the river is running at 4,000 megs or less there are distinct pools, glides and concentrated bubble lines. Fish will be found feeding heavily in the tail outs of most pools and the bubble lines will contain literally thousands of these bugs. This is typical of mid autumn and late spring.

Fly Patterns

Caenid duns will be found drifting on the water while the spinners congregate around Caenids usually hatch in huge numbersvegetation on the bank's edge. Fortunately a single pattern will usually suffice. Getting the size right is the most important part of matching this hatch. The caenid featured in our fly archives is the first choice. It should be tied on a variety of hook sizes with about a #22 the most commonly used .If you do not have one of these try a Goulburn Griffith's in the smallest size and trim the palmered hackle right around the fly, leaving on a couple of millimetres of the hackle. This ugly modification pretty much leaves just the peacock herl body to provide the bulk of the fly and the trimmed hackle floats it. It works very well at times.


The most important thing is to find your fish before you begin fishing. Blind fishing with such a small fly is not really productive and you need to be aware of where fish feeding on these tiny insects are most likely to be. Three places most likely are:

1. Current reverses/backwaters

2. Tails of pools

3. Bubble lines in the middle of the pool

Slow water is the key and you should not expect to find fish working this hatch in shallow gravel runs as they just cannot find such tiny bugs in the chop.

1. Current reverses must be approached from the bottom end of the reverse. This means walking downstream on the main river so as to not spook a fish sitting in the reverse and facing 'downstream' in relation to the main river flow. You should try and get to a spot where getting a drag free drift is easy and the cast is unlikely to spook the trout. Once in a good position multiple drifts can be made until the fish takes the fly. Current reverses are especially important at water levels greater than 4,000 Meg.

2. Tails of pools are also a hotspot when the lower river levels make them distinguishable. Fish will sit just upstream of the drop off lip making a drag free drift almost impossible. The good thing is that you can easily approach through the shallow gravel bar below but you are limited in how close you can get as these are often the most wary of all fish. Use inventive casts to get a drag free drift, even if it is only for a few seconds. Reach mends, wiggle casts, slack line casts etc can all be used in these situations. If you have some sort of cover and can fish from almost parallel with the fish do so. These spots offer a good chance to catch a fish but presentation is the problem.

3. Bubble lines represent the best chance of catching fish during this hatch. A huge number of caenids are usually drifting by and the fish feast on the over supply of food. Approaching is usually easy, a drag free drift is not a problem and the fish are less wary as they usually have the refuge of depth or structure nearby.

Leaders should be long and fine. Nine foot is the bare minimum with 12 foot the norm. A good four feet of 2lb tippet should be used to aid presentation and you can use your light weight rods at these times as the wind is not a problem.


This early morning hatch is something worth chasing as there is a chance that you could pick up a couple of decent fish before the day even gets started. It also allows you to take in the beauty of the most magical time of day, first light. The air is crisp and the light dim and the fish are rising to small dry flies. Just being out there to see it is pretty special.



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